GOM Lease Sale Delayed Again

The Biden administration postpones Sale 261 while awaiting court ruling.

Flying Crane and Oil Rig
Sale 261 was set to offer approximately 13,618 blocks on 72.7 million acres on the US Outer Continental Shelf.
Credit: Michael Watkins/Getty Images

Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Lease Sale 261 will not be held on 8 November as scheduled by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

The agency said this week that as a result of the order issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on 26 October in Louisiana v. Haaland(Case No. 23-30666), it would postpone the sale.

An appeals panel stayed a preliminary injunction granted earlier to plaintiffs, the American Petroleum Institute, State of Louisiana, and Chevron, who petitioned the court to have the sale move forward. The next arguments in the case are set for 13 November.

Sale 261 was originally scheduled for 27 September, and later scheduled for 8 November, in response to judicial orders.

“Until the court rules, BOEM cannot be certain of which areas or stipulations may be included in the sale notice,” the agency said in a release. “Potential bidders in Lease Sale 261 should not submit bids until BOEM provides additional instruction. BOEM will hold any bids already received and will hold the sale after it receives further direction from the Court of Appeals.”

Sale 261 was set to offer approximately 13,618 blocks on 72.7 million acres on the US Outer Continental Shelf in the Western, Central, and Eastern Planning Areas in the GOM. The court directed BOEM to include lease blocks that were previously excluded due to potential impacts to the Rice’s whale population from oil and gas activities in the GOM, and to remove portions of a related stipulation meant to address those potential impacts from the lease terms for any leases that may result from Sale 261.

The last GOM lease sale, Sale 259 held in March, attracted $263.8 million in high bids for 313 tracts covering 1.6 million acres in federal waters. A total of 32 companies participated in the lease sale, submitting around $309.8 million in total bids.

In September, the Biden administration issued a new 5-year program for offshore leasing that featured only three lease sales over the period, the lowest number of lease sales in the history of the program. Sale 261 is the final lease sale mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act and is the only offshore lease sale scheduled to take place until 2025.

Additionally, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries denied a petition from several nongovernment organizations to establish a mandatory 10-knot speed limit and other vessel-related mitigation measures to protect the endangered whales and will not proceed with rulemaking at this time.

“We have concluded that fundamental conservation tasks, including finalizing the critical habitat designation, drafting a species recovery plan, and conducting a quantitative vessel risk assessment, are all needed before we consider vessel regulations,” the agency said in a statement.